March 29, 2006

Review - Dream Theater: Philadelphia March 29, 2006

Dream Theater is the best band ever. Hooray! More fanboy gushing after the fold.

Well, disagree with that as you may, but they put on an awsome show. Clocking in at almost three hours, with no opening act, the tickets may have been a little on the expensive side but there's a lot of value there. The show took place at The Tower Theater, which is a brilliant old vaudville theater converted first to a movie theater, in the 50's, and then to a music venue in the 70's. It's very ornately decorated, which generally makes for a more interesting experience than a grass lawn or a characterless club.

This is the fourth time I've seen DT in concert. Twice it was on tours where they co-headlined with another act (the first time with Joe Satriani and the second with Queensryche) and now twice in what they call "An Evening With..." shows where the band plays two sets with a short intermission and capped off by an encore. DT has been, in my experience, universally superb live. They perfectly balance the benefits of playing the songs like they sound on the album with altering them enough for the live show to give you a reason not to just sit home and listen to their albums. Dream Theater can actually play their songs live, unlike too many bands who sound great when they're in the studio and can tweak everything until it's perfect, but sound sloppy live. Though they don't have all the pyrotechnic excitment of some shows, the band had three nice and big video displays behind them showing all kinds of interesting videos and lighting effects.

This is the band's 20th Anniversary tour, so as you would imagine the first half of the show and part of the second was comprised of songs off each of their previous seven albums with the bulk of the second half taken up by playing more than half of their newest album, Octavarium. The videos playing behind the band during their tour through the years showed behind the scenes pictures and video from the era of the song they were playing.

One interesting surprise was a song written in the mid-nineties that never made it onto an album. I'm afraid I can't remember the song title off the top of my head, but it's almost guaranteed that they're going to play it at the upcoming show at Radio City Music Hall, which will be recorded and released as both a CD set and DVD, so I'll know it then I suppose.

The one small flaw to the show which has been true every time I see them and probably will always be there is that when you have a singer who plays no instrument and frequent instrumental sections it's going to be impossible for him to find something interesting to do while he waits. Fortunately James LaBrie has learned over the years to just leave the stage altogether for the longer instrumentals, but for the shorter ones he does seem a bit silly with nothing really to do. Still, that's not his fault and he does his best to keep the crowd's energy up in his down time.

All in all, what do you look for in a show? They had a great set list which included both fan favorites and some deeper cuts/unknowns. They played crisply, flawlessly. At the same time they added in some clever alterations, such as two interludes in "Peruvian Skies" where they broke into "Wish You Where Here" by Pink Floyd and "Wherever I May Roam" by Metallica, to make the listening experience somewhat exciting and new. Oh, and at two times during the show I got members of the band to look at me and wave/point/thumbs up/etc. Yeah, I'm not above fanboy gushing, what of it?! Despite not being quite as close to the stage as I would have liked, that was super sweet.

To close, Dream Theater is awesome.

Here's the set list for my show as I remember it. When the official setlist is online I'll try to update here.

1. The Root of All Evil
2. Another Won
3. Afterlife
4. Take the Time
5. Caught In a Web
6. Peruvian Skies
7. ?
8. Home
9. War Inside My Head / The Test That Stumped Them All
14. Endless Sacrifice
15. I Walk Beside You
16. Sacrificed Sons
17. Octavarium
18. Wait for Sleep
19. Learning To Live


Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you had such a good time! And yay for getting the band to acknowledge you (twice)!

Jason said...

They were pointing at the hot groupie behind them, you misguided fool.